Iâ€™ve been using a Kindle Keyboard (or a Kindle 3 for you name sticklers) for over a year now, and so far Iâ€™ve loved it, save for the fact that it didnâ€™t have a built-in light. Iâ€™ve had to purchase an external booklight for it for those times when there isnâ€™t enough illumination to read by. But other than that, itâ€™s largely been fine.Â It was the ad-free version, and I loaded it up with the latest books, and some old ones I wanted to read over, and pretty soon it had about as much as I could take, and I read and read and read. I organized my books by putting works by the same author together, and similar themed ones in folders. It didnâ€™t have 3G, but I didnâ€™t really need it, and I just connected on wifi when I had to get some books from Amazon.
The Kindle 3â€™s got some quirks you gotta get used to, like using the physical keyboard to enter data, and pressing certain keys when you want symbols or some other arcane characters, and using the two big keys on either side of the device to go forward or backward on pages. The ad-free kind was nice, but I realized I didnâ€™t really need one because the ads of Amazon were largely non-intrusive and didnâ€™t show up when you were reading a book.Â When the Kindle Touch came out, I of course wanted to upgrade, but just to have touch capability? Nah, I told myself. Not enough reason to. Best wait for the one after. Or the one after that. Make it worth it to upgrade. Maybe itâ€™ll have a built-in light.
Well, that day has finally come.
Amazon recently released a slew of new Kindles (including an updated Kindle Fire), and included a nice, touch-capable, contrast- and resolution-improved model called the Kindle Paperwhite, so-called because of its better screen and addition of an evenly distributed backlight. And despite the addition of a built-in light, itâ€™s further improved its power consumption and requires you to recharge only every two months!
I quickly de-registered my Kindle 3 and put it up for sale on the usual online selling sites, and there was no shortage of takers. So I sold my beloved device and bought a Kindle Paperwhite, an entry-level unit, with wifi only and saddled with Amazonâ€™s â€śSpecial Offersâ€ť (an ad-free version is also available for a little bit more).
GREAT, SIMPLE PACKAGING
Itâ€™s everything I ever wanted in a Kindle.
The package is nice and simple, consisting of a box with one tear-off seal, part of Amazon’s â€śfrustration-freeâ€ť packaging initiative, not unlike the old Kindle 3.Â Opening it up, you find the new, smaller Kindle (smaller because of the lack of a physical keyboard) inside, wrapped in plastic and snugly ensconced in a form-fitting enclosure, and packaged with a micro-USB cable. Thereâ€™s a thin, single-page “manual” and that was it. No power connector or AC adapter, but you can do that by attaching it to your computer, so why get one?
I took it out of the packaging and turned it on, and the changes were apparent.
LIGHTER AND THINNER THAN BEFORE
It was thinner than previous models (about a third the width of a pencil, according to Amazon), and weighed only 7.5 ounces. It was a nice black color, with a moderately-sized bezel that you can comfortably hold. There are no obvious physical controls on the thing, not even a solitary home button. Just a power switch on the bottom, along with a micro USB port for connecting to your computer.
The page-turn buttons on the side are gone. There is no longer a physical keyboard as well, like the Kindle Touch before it, and it’s disconcerting at first for a former Kindle 3 user like me.
The contrast was improved (according to Amazon by 25%) and the resolution was likewise improved, this time by 62% more pixels. It featured a bright white background (hence the Paperwhite monicker). It operates solely by touch. You swipe to change pages and tap to bring up the menus and keyboard. It features a 1200 x 768 pixel display, a step up from the Touch’s 800 x 600.Â There are six new “hand-tooled” fonts in eight adjustable sizes, and you can resize to your heart’s (and eyes’s) content.
There is 2GB of memory (1GB usable for storage), but there is no option for adding additional memory. Amazon also took out the audio capabilities of this Kindle, so you can’t get the text-to-speech option or use it to play MP3s in a pinch.
THE BACKLIGHTING IS FANTASTIC
Best of all, there was the backlight. Oh, the backlight.
One of the biggest faults of the old Kindles for me was the lack of backlighting, so this was a big thing. It was great to read e-ink in the bright sunlight, but reading in the dark was a pain with my older Kindle. You’d either have to get a separately available light source, or get one of those Kindle cases with the built-in light available from Amazon, and which cost half as much as the Kindle itself. I went the cheaper attachable booklight route, but it wasn’t very good. The light kept falling off.
The built-in light of the Paperwhite is fantastic. It bathes the text in white light that seems to emanate from the whole of the screen itself in a gentle, warm glow, giving it its name.Â Although you can turn the backlight off (and read your book in a glare-free manner under available light like before), you can adjust it to full strength in a lighted room, or just keep on in a muted manner for better visibility in a dark one. The lighting is evenly and uniformly distributed.
You canâ€™t really tell where the light is coming from, itâ€™s well implemented, not like the old Kindle Fire where you can see that the light is emanating from the edge of the device. (Well, for the most part, actually. There is still some slight sourcing from the bottom part of the screen and you can actually tell where the light is coming from, but only if you really try hard to see, like in a dark room or something.)
It uses a flattened fiber optic cable and nanoimprinting to make sure the light is evenly distributed for equal whiteness across the page, and employs low-power LEDs for very low energy consumption, enabling charges to last for two months of regular use, for about 30 minutes a day under middle light settings, with wifi or 3G off.
ALL CONTROLS ARE TOUCH-BASED
The controls are also nice, even without a physical home button. All the controls are on the capacitive screen. You tap and swipe certain areas to turn pages (still kinda a bit slow for my taste, but what the hey, it’s better than before), and the usual menus are accessible via the touchscreen by tapping near the top. The Amazon ads, true to form, are largely imperceptible and unobtrusive, appearing only in the in-between parts of your reading, and never during your actual reading process. The text seemed more crisp and solid, and they certainly wereâ€”the added pixels and better contrast did their jobs.
LOADING BOOKSâ€”AND FINDING YOU CAN’T EVEN DENT THE STORAGE!
You can connect via wifi (or if you pay a little more, you can access the net via free 3G with certain models) to access Amazon and the net. There’s a new feature called “X-Ray” which allows you to find out more about the things and people you’re reading about. There’s also a “Time to Read” feature that guess-timates how long it’ll take you to finish the chapter you’re currently reading.
I loaded it with a bunch of new books I had gotten using the Kindle Amazon website, and used a third-party app named Calibre on my iMac to load up more .mobi books that I had collected from my previous Kindle days.Â I even loaded up books I’d already read before, just on the off-chance I’d want to read them again, and a whole bunch that I’d never gotten around to yet. I checked the storage space, and was surprised to find out that I hadn’t even used up half of it! It can actually store up to more than a thousand books if you have that many.
I’ve had the Kindle Paperwhite for about a week, and I’ve been reading and reading and reading books, especially at night, when the comforting glow of the screen warms the cockles of my heart, at least until I fall asleep.
In an era where multi-purpose tablets rule, there are still several dedicated e-readers out there, and the Kindle Paperwhite rules the pack. With its capacitive touch controls and wonderful backlighting, it’s everything you’d ever want in an e-ink reader. Highly recommended!
AVAILABILITY Online at Amazon, or from your friendly neighborhood e-sellers
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